Warning: the following story’s graphic content and photo may upset the reader.
One of Liberia’s best and most reliable newspapers, FrontPageAfrica, yesterday published a harrowing and scaring report on an attempted kidnapping, presumably for ritualistic purposes. It all happened in Paynesville, Greater Monrovia, Montserrado County, around 3:00 a.m. last Thursday, September 21.
When hearing or reading about alleged or attempted ritualistic murders I am always wary of the danger of jumping too soon to conclusions. But certain details of the story which the aimed victim Sherman Cooper tells us are very realistic: the black, unmarked car, a Nissan Pathfinder, the way he managed to escape from his agressors, as observed by an eyewitness, and above all his wounds, the cutting marks around his neck and another on his genitals. Moreover, and the author of the article, Lennart Dodoo, also mentions this explicitly, it is election time in Liberia: ‘Ritualistic killings during elections are not a new phenomenon in Liberia.’
Last week I put the spotlight on Dr. Alan White’s testimony before a subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US House of Representatives when the former Chief Investigator of the Special Court for Sierra Leone focused on the frequency of ritual murders in Liberia and the alleged link with the Weah Administration, notably the Office of the President.
It sounds unreal, in the 21st century, but we cannot close our eyes for the at times brutal reality. Investigations into real or alleged ritual killings very often fizzle out in Liberia, reportedly because of the alleged, suspected or real involvement of ‘big shots’ (politicians, high-ranking government officials or other highly-placed Liberians) – similar to investigations into alleged or real corruption.
We’ll see whether we ever hear more about this case…
Liberia: Man Narrowly Escapes Attempted Ritualistic Murder; Brother Abducted by Kidnappers, Still Missing
Published: September 27, 2023
By: Lennart Dodoo – FrontPageAfrica, Liberia
MONROVIA – Saved by an act of bravery but severely wounded, Sherman Cooper, a victim of an alleged kidnapping and attempted ritualistic killing, now wonders about the whereabouts of his brother, Michael, whom the alleged kidnappers escaped with.
Sherman jumped out of the black, unmarked speeding Nissan Pathfinder, which had given him and his brother a lift from Paynesville, near the Fabulous opposite Bethesda.
FrontPageAfrica has confirmed that Sherman is currently receiving medical attention at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Medical Center’s trauma unit.
Some residents of the area and eyewitnesses say the unmarked black Nissan Pathfinder is often seen patrolling the VOA area in Paynesville.
An eyewitness who was driving behind the speeding SUV said he saw Sherman jump out of the moving vehicle. He said the kidnappers looked foreign and suspected them of being Burkinabe.
In a video seen by FrontPageAfrica, Sherman, who was stark naked and bloody, is seen with cutting marks around his neck and another on his genitals. He also sustained severe injuries on his knee, head, forehead, back, buttock, and thigh.
He is heard wailing, “I’m in pain, oh, I’m in pain, oh. Y’all help me. They carried my brother. They’re going to kill my brother. Y’all, please carry me to the hospital.”
He added, “The people put the windshield [glass] up, I fought. The passenger seat behind [extra cabin seat in the trunk] and two people were sitting behind we didn’t know. When we sat, that’s when they… I said ooh they want to kill us.”
FrontPageAfrica learned that the police and security authorities have been interrogating Sherman as the whereabouts of Michael remain unknown.
According to the eyewitness who saw Sherman jumping down from the car, he stopped his car and observed when he saw Sherman jump from the car. “He started crawling towards me, crying ‘Please help me, please help me,’” he explained.
This happened around Rehab.
According to the eyewitness, the incident occurred at about 3:30 a.m. last Thursday. In his narrative, he said Sherman and his brother were supposed to alight at Rehab, but as the vehicle approached Rehab, it increased its speed, and that’s when Sherman and his brother started fighting.
“The guys put a rope around their necks. They had two guys in the back seat, so they put a rope around their necks, and they started fighting. But he was fighting for his life, so he managed to hold on to the glass, and they tried to put the glass up, but his hands were already between the glass, so he managed to pull the glass down with strength while they were concentrating on taking off his private part, and he managed to jump through the window while they were at the junction,” the eyewitness explained.
Ritualistic killings during elections are not a new phenomenon in Liberia. In 2021, a UN human rights expert called on the government to investigate a series of killings that have occurred this year, some of which have reportedly been linked to ritualistic practices.
At least 10 people were killed in unclear circumstances in December 2021, including five in September, reportedly with suspected links to ritualistic practices or political motivations.
Last week, Dr. Alan W. White, Co-Executive Director of the Advocacy Foundation for Human Rights, delivered a compelling testimony before the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, addressing the pressing issue of ritualistic killings in Africa, with a particular focus on Liberia. Dr. White shed light on the Foundation’s mission to combat human rights violations, including ritualistic killings and the alarming allegations linking these acts to high-ranking government officials, including the Executive Mansion.
In his testimony, Dr. White detailed the challenges faced in gathering information and conducting investigations into ritualistic killings, emphasizing the danger faced by sources who dare to speak out against these crimes.
Dr. White’s testimony also touched upon recent cases of ritualistic killings in Liberia, such as the mysterious disappearance of three young men hired for a task in Bong County in October 2020 by the St. Moses Funeral Home. The bodies of these young men were never returned to their families, and investigations into their deaths remain unresolved, raising suspicions of involvement by influential individuals with close government ties.
“The Foundation has received disturbing information about the frequency of such killings and the allegations linking it to the Executive Mansion (The Office of the President) and other high-ranking government officials. Details of these atrocities are difficult to obtain,” he said.
He also linked the past regime to acts of ritualistic killings, saying, “The Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration during her 12 years (2006-2018) in office was plagued with ritual killings, and despite vows to bring them to an end, they continued. The same problems continue under the Weah administration, and unlike Sirleaf, there were no insiders reporting her direct involvement with the ritual killings.”